Today, I worked with a class to ask thoughtful questions about what they were reading. I explained that good questions make us want to turn the pages and keep reading. Questions should be about things we wonder or don’t understand. Questions should bring deeper understanding and excitement to the text we are reading.
To introduce the book, I simply held it up for the class and gave them the title (The Van Gogh Café by Cynthia Rylant). Chris Lehman suggested a great way to let students know what might be coming in a book, without giving anything away. He suggested that a few simple statements be made about the book in general.
In books like this one…
These statements let students know what’s coming in the book, without doing all the thinking for them. These statements give them a lens through which to read.
To help students get started, I read the first section of the text. Students had their own copy of the text with four places to stop and ask any questions they might have. As I read, I modeled two questions I had about the text. I pointed out that the first was probably not answered in the text, so I really wanted to talk to a friend about what it might mean. The second question would probably be answered as I read, and it made me want to keep turning the pages to find the answer. In addition, I made a connection to the three statements above. My first question was about the setting. My second was about the magic. To make my questions thoughtful, I could let the three statements guide me in asking my questions.
The students began their work, reading the next three portions of text on their own and writing their questions. When most were finished, I had them circle the questions that were like my first one; questions that probably would not be answered in the text, but they would really like to talk with someone to get their opinion. They then turned to a partner to explore the thinking about those circled questions. A wonderful discussion ensued.
Later in the day, I visited with the classroom teacher about the lesson. Together, we looked at the questions the students had posed and found students were pondering deeper questions that were referring to the important parts of the text: the magic, the setting, and the smaller stories inside the bigger story. The majority of the questions could only be answered by continuing to read or discussing the book with a friend and making inferences. The students were excited to read and explore. I was excited they were “diving for treasures” in a book!